Private donors save Detroit recreation centers which faced chopping block

By Bisi Onile-Ere, Local 4 Reporter
Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:47:55 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 22 2012 11:10:59 PM EDT

The recreation centers were facing huge budget reductions and a questionable future.

DETROIT -

If he is not working or at school, you likely will find Mark Walker at Detroit's Northwest Activities center.

Walker calls the activities center his second home.

"Well, I've been coming here since I was about 7," he said.

Walker's so-called second home is a community resource he and so many other Detroiters almost lost.

"If this rec center was to close ... it's part of my life," Walker said.

Detroit's financial crisis threatened the future of 17 recreation centers throughout the city. However, with the help of donors the doors won't close.

More: Detroit City in Crisis

"It is our intent as we go through this financial crisis to be honest with everybody and let them know we don't have the funding to maintain the programs we now have at our rec centers, we needed help," said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. "I've been overwhelmed with the kind of support we've gotten."

Big name companies such as General Motors and Lear have pledged to donate millions of dollars to a new trust. It is private funding that will go toward after-school programs such as swimming, basketball and dance.

"Without rec centers, I feel like if kids don't have anywhere to go, where are they going to be? On the street," said Walker.

Mary Barker said she is thankful there is someone fighting for the community.

"I just thank God that there is someone fighting and contributing and helping us to keep places like this in our community," she said.

The city of Detroit cut the recreation department's budget nearly in half. Bing says what is left will go toward the upkeep of facilities.

So far, the trust has secured $15 million in pledges to keep the after-school programs running.

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